This week, we get an early dose of Postcards From Page Side from our featured columnist Brian Bavosa as he recounts Phish’s tour opening weekend at Bethel Woods in Bethel, NY…
After five months off since their triumphant New Year’s Eve run at the DCU Center in Worcester and NYC’s Madison Square Garden that seemingly saw the band turn a musical corner, Phish returned to the road this past weekend for a three-night run at Bethel Woods in upstate New York. After the holiday run, fans were very interested to see what might be in store for the band’s most aggressive and longest tour in nearly 20 years this summer – broken down into two legs, 30 proper shows and a 3-day festival over the 4th of July weekend in Superball IX.
[Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011]
Bethel Woods is a venue that fans (and the HT staff) have been hoping for years Phish would play. Sitting just atop the hill where Woodstock was held, simply put, the place has good bones. It is also the nicest ampitheater in the northeast in my opinion, if not the country. The sightlines and sound are awesome from any vantage point, and the lush, green lawn is as comfortable as they come. While ample trees and a full-fledged museum dedicated to Woodstock on-site (which is a site to behold on itself, and highly recommended), Bethel is the quintessential place to see the band, with plenty of space to move around and get down.
When the band finally hit the stage on Friday night, any question of proving a point was made with a bombastic Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend opening sequence. In fact, from start to finish, the first set of Summer Tour 2011 was as high energy as they come and sure to be a favorite of the weekend for many. Boasting a super-funky Wolfman’s Brother that slid effortlessly into Walk Away, one of the strongest tunes for Phish 3.0 on a consistent basis, any doubts of practice, or easing into the weekend were quickly dissipated.
READ ON for more on Phish’s tour-opening run in Bethel…
Phish returned to Bethel Woods on Sunday for the third of three tour-opening shows. Unlike the first two performances, night three was light on the jams, sporting a setlist filled with heavy-rotation staples.
[Photo via Justin B.]
READ ON for the setlist and The Skinny…
On Friday night Phish kicked off the first leg of their summer tour with a hearty opening show that featured a number of expansive jams and laid the ground work for what should be an exciting run. The quartet returned to gorgeous Bethel Woods for the second of three performances at the venue near the site of 1969’s Woodstock Festival on Saturday.
[Photo via Liberty Independent]
Saturday’s show proved the power of the jams as the band continued to flex their improvisational muscles in Bethel. In the first set both Halley’s Comet and Bathtub Gin featured impressive improvisation, especially considering nearly every version of Halley’s since Hampton has been of the five-minute variety. Halley’s at Bethel surpassed the 12-minute mark to the delight of Phish fans, while Bathtub Gin contained elements of Manteca and some of the best group interplay seen from the run thanks in part of drummer Jon Fishman’s bombastic backbeat. Also of note was the rare stretching out of the post-first verse breakdown in Runaway Jim.
The second set started with a 15-minute-plus Down With Disease that devolved into a space jam before the band worked their way into Free. Backwards Down The Number Line could be a monster when Phish chooses to explore the space between the riff that forms the jam and the Bethel version showed why as each member of the group contributed to a tasty improvisation that alternated between light/airy playing and dark/evil-tinged themes. Night two wasn’t just about the jams, Phish was also having fun all night, which was most apparent during a Makisupa Policeman that found Trey, Page, Mike and Fish each taking a turn at laying down what the music would sound like at their respective houses in a cool segment that’s worth a listen. From there, the boys turned on a dime into Harry Hood land for a patient take on the tune that would be a standout version if it peaked harder. David Bowie gave Phish one last chance to jam and they took advantage with Trey in particular laying down some ripping riffs.
HT’s Brian Bavosa will be at all three tour-opening shows and will file a full report early next week. READ ON for tonight’s setlist and The Skinny…
[Photo via @aaronpethic]
The band dotted the 11-song opening stanza at the venue near the site of the Woodstock Festival with four covers including Walk Away by The James Gang, Roses Are Free by Ween and Woodstock legend Jimi Hendrix’s Axis: Bold As Love. According to Sam Davis of Dog Gone Blog the improv out of Kill Devil Falls was a “full departure from the song structure,” as it contained a “spacious, flowing jam” that was “just amazing.” Surprisingly, there were no new covers or originals debuted during show one of the summer tour.
Set Two kicked off with Carini which led into a Back On The Train with a “patient build up” and “soaring peak” that contained “some of Trey’s best playing in 3.0” according to Guy Forget of Online Phish Tour. A cover of Stevie Wonder’s Boogie On Reggae Woman came next and featured a “weird slowdown” at the end according to Scott Marks for @YEMblog. Out of Boogie On came the first version of Waves since August 2009 and the Round Room tune clocked in at nearly 14-minutes as it went off into a spacey jam space that Davis described as “pure ambient beauty, a fine moment.” Another shining moment was a take on the Talking Heads’ Crosseyed and Painless which Davis felt had a “krautrock jam” and featured Anastasio on “octave dropped riffs.” From there, the group ended the set with a run of heavy rotation originals that left Marks noting the “very inconsistent energy level” of the set. Oddly, Phish did not play Tweezer Reprise during the encore, instead leaving off with just Julius.
HT’s Brian Bavosa will be at all three tour-opening shows and will file a full report early next week. Check back later for the debut of The Skinny, our “box score” of sorts about each gig. READ ON for the setlist…